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McAllister's promise to nurture stars of future

GARY McALLISTER admits he cannot wait to start his new role as father figure to England prospect Steven Gerrard and the rest of Liverpool's young stars.

The former Scottish international yesterday passed a medical and will move to Anfield on a free transfer officially when his Coventry contract expires at the end of next month.

And the 35 year-old - Coventry's player of the season - claims he was shocked when he was told that Liverpool chief Gerard Houllier wanted to sign him on a one-year deal, with an extra season on top if the Merseysiders qualify for the Champions League next season.

McAllister said: "This is fairytale stuff for someone at my stage of life. It did surprise me when Liverpool came in for me, but I have talked through the specific role that Gerard Houllier wants me to have, and I am more than happy with it."

McAllister will be given the responsibility of looking after Liverpool's string of brilliant youngsters as they approach the toughest season of their young lives.

And midfielder McAllister will have the special task of guiding teenager Gerrard through a campaign where the Liverpool-born youngster will take on a key role for club and country. McAllister said: "It won't just be Gerrard, but all the youngsters. Liverpool have got three cup competitions next season plus a tough Premiership campaign.

"They are in the UEFA Cup and there will be a lot more games for them to handle. The average age of their side last season was under 25, and that's very young indeed for a top-flight club.

"The manager explained that there was a need for some experience around the squad, an old head in the side.

"It's a tremendous challenge for me, and something that I really didn't expect at this stage of my career. But I intend to grasp it and enjoy it. In fact I wish the season could start straight away.

"If I can offer anything to help the younger players and their development, that's fine by me."

He added: "Young Gerrard is already one of the best midfield players around, and there's nothing he can't achieve in the game if he wants it. He's already a very special player.

"Obviously I'm there to help him. But he can help me too. Playing alongside him I will be able to bounce off him as much as he can bounce off me.

"I've just had my best ever scoring tally in the Premiership with 13 last season, and I'm feeling as fit as ever," the Scot added. "It's too early to say just how many games I will play, maybe people will be surprised.

"Realistically I do not have much longer left at this level, and I can't see me signing many contracts after this one. So it makes me more aware that this is a great chance for me now, and I can't wait to get going."

© Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

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